On September 19, the International People’s Tribunal (IPT) found Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte guilty of Human Rights abuses in Brussels, Belgium. In the early morning of the same day in the Philippines, the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) held a forum at University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman in the wake of the impending decision from IPT. Remembering the 46th anniversary of Martial Law, the forum was titled “Remember (Martial Law). Reclaim (Our Rights). Resist (Tyranny)”.
At the start of the forum, the organization explained the importance of the IPT in relation to the country’s situation. The CWR clarified that a verdict siding with victims of the Duterte regime’s abuse will be considered “the first step to justice, and a victory in its own accord.”
The ruling is aimed to serve as a reminder people of the anomalies that transpired in the Martial Law regime, and the issues buried in the country’s past, as one of them shares, “This act at yung magiging decision ng IPT ay para ipaalala na hindi tayo makakalimot.”
(This act and this decision of IPT will be a reminder that we are not forgetting).
According to the forum, IPT’s decision and investigation will be submitted to the United Nations, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and other governing bodies, to come to decisions on problems such as human rights abuses.
Paying homage to both victims of Martial Law and the current war on drugs, CWR invited women from several sectors to speak up about problems they are facing.
The panel included two Nueva Ecija farmers, Lita Facunda and Fe Baldo, who both shared their plight. Narrating the challenges currently besieging their community, Nanay Lita and Nanay Fe recount how military presence is affecting the lives of their people. According to them, around 160 farming families are in danger of losing the land they till to a group of farmers backed by military troops. They also expressed their fear of losing loved ones, were they to fight back for their land.
Lorrie Pasco, a mother whose two sons were killed in the drug war, is searching for justice. Even after their death, her sons are still accused of crimes. Distraught but still looking to honor her children’s memory, she used her voice to speak up for those who are still affected by the drug war and extra-judicial killings of the current administration. One of her children died on duty; he worked as a guard. After the deaths of two of her sons, one of her biggest fear is losing her third–an event that she does not think she could stand were it to happen. “Kaya yung anak ko na jeepney driver… nag-iingat talaga ako kasi baka kung ano na naman ang mangyari.”
(That’s why I really take care of my son who is a jeepney driver because we’ll never know what happens).
Jeovellyn Bornales, a member of Nagkakaisang Manggagawa ng Nutriasia Marilao (NMN Marilao), fought back by joining the rally that went against the company she works for. According to her, she was part of the controversial dispersals that sparked rage over the internet. NutriAsia workers went on strike to demand better treatment, as violent dispersals then ensued. She accuses the police of planting drugs on some strikers to “ruin their reputation”. She spent three days and two nights in jail. Besides members of NMN Marilao, there were others who were there in support of the workers. She recalls that there were many student activists present–some were “abused,” while some were detained just like her. Jeovellyn, for her part, was not able to stop herself from crying as she shared her story. Determined, her voice rang out, “Ituloy ang boycott”. (Continue the boycott).
From the struggle to finally have free education to student activists who are starting to fear authorities, Nicole Reasonda of Gabriela Youth shares that the youth is one with the struggle. She mentioned the sudden police presence in her campus in UP Diliman, despite the agreement between the University and the authorities which should limit police presence inside UP territory.
Not yet over
According to CWR, the country is still far from “the right path to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) by 2030,” which, as of now, is still difficult to grasp as they presented during the forum. Violations against human rights are not limited to the drug war and the extrajudicial killings; they also refer to the maltreatment of employees, lack of opportunities for Filipinos, misogynistic comments from the President himself, and skyrocketing inflation rate, among other issues. As women’s rights are integral to all 17 goals, CWR added that, “It is only by ensuring that women’s rights are being honored will the goals be truly attainable across the board.”
As they struggle to fight for women’s rights, they are also vocal about their scrutiny against tyranny and Martial Law. According to them, the fight is “not yet over, and no one should back down from the challenges being faced.” And now, as of writing, IPT has come to a verdict–a verdict that, for the CWR, sparks hope amidst the current situation of the country.